Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) Review

“Guardians of the Galaxy” presents new ideas to the blockbuster strategy, or at the very least, Marvel’s take on how to effectively make blockbuster movies. With “Guardians” we see that Marvel doesn’t just insist on playing it safe with their tried and tested franchises, namely anything to do with “The Avengers”. I knew before sitting down to watch the film that if it is received positively by the general audience then perhaps more than just Marvel studios will be given the green light to really try something new and to at the very least be able to take themselves less seriously once in a while. If the optimist inside hadn’t shrivelled up and wasted away whilst watching “The Amazing Spider-Man 2”, I would tell you that “Guardians of the Galaxy” is sure to give way to a glorious era of a new breed of blockbuster, which is still recognisable as such with the action and the visuals but with just more of a difference. Whether it will or not I can’t say, but “Guardians of the Galaxy” is certainly different and refreshingly so, fingers crossed for the future.

Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) is taken from earth for an unknown reason after his mother dies presumably of cancer. Twenty-six years later he has become an interstellar outlaw and is currently on a job to collect an orb for his employer. When he is intercepted by Korath (Djimon Hounsou), who is trying to collect the orb for his own employer and the films main antagonist Ronan (Lee Pace), he finds himself on the run before quickly getting arrested. In prison he bands together with Rocket (Bradley Cooper), Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista), Groot (Vin Diesel), and last but not least Gamora (Zoe Saldana), an agent trained by Ronan himself alongside her adopted sister Nebula (Karen Gillan). Needless to say the orb holds a significant power that Ronan needs to take over the world (sorry, the galaxy) and our new set of heroes will have to stop him. I know what I said before, “Guardians of the Galaxy” is different though admittedly not in terms of it’s plot. The change is present first and foremost within the characters themselves as well as the films overall approach.

The universe we are introduced to here keeps itself mostly separate from the happenings on earth with “The Avengers” but there are elements of this movie that are clearly going to link it to the mainstream marvel franchise soon. Earth is only really seen at the beginning of the film and not for very long. The only remnants of earth in the movie is Star Lord himself (That’s Peter Quill’s outlaw name) and his “walkman” which contains a tape that he happened to have on him when his mother died. The actual scene concerning his mothers death was surprisingly poignant, but in terms of it’s relevance to the rest of the movie? It may as well not exist. The walkman serves as a forced device to try and make us care for Peter Quill and to try and give him depth, and it doesn’t quite work. In a way, I’m glad the film leaves earth for something new that feels very “Star wars” with its aesthetic variety, I just don’t understand the needless tethering to Quill’s past, potentially it’s being saved for the sequel, we’ll see. None of the characters in “Guardians” are particularly deep but they are all interesting in their own right, especially as a group. Groot is an innocent tree like creature that is only capable of speaking one sentence: “I am Groot”, and he is the partner and protector of Rocket; a genetically engineered raccoon who is uncanny with weaponry larger than himself. They play off against each other brilliantly and it’s always amusing to watch Rocket perfectly interpret everything Groot says. Again though, we learn little about their relationship and it is somewhat unsatisfying even though what we do see is very humourous and all of the characters feel unique.

Humour makes up a surprisingly large portion of the formula of “Guardians of the Galaxy”. Where “The Avengers” felt like a good action movie with some comedy, “Guardians” feels like a good comedy with some action. It’s bound to make you laugh and it made me laugh multiple times, it comes down again to good dialogue and well realised characters. It occasionally comes across as a little too invasive and feels unnecessarily thrust into scenarios in an attempt to get some cheap laughs. To be fair that’s not often and the humour was one of the main reasons I enjoyed this film, to the extent that I seriously believe I would have really disliked it if it didn’t have it present. The action however, whilst visually appealing as we’ve come to expect, feels often drawn out and just not all that necessary in the first place. I frequently found myself sort of daydreaming at the meaningless chases and explosions rather than really appreciating what was in front of me like I did with “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” and to a lesser extent “The Avengers”. It doesn’t destroy the entertainment value the film has and it isn’t really all that bad, just know that you’ve certainly seen better.

Ronan is definitely a better villain than Christopher Eccleston’s Malekith in “Thor: The Dark World” though he isn’t by any means outstanding. The religious extremist approach is certainly a new motive for a Marvel villain (that I can remember) and he is certainly brutal and imposing. It’s again a case of a lack of depth but still having just enough good dialogue and presence that he doesn’t feel as dreadful as the aforementioned Malekith was. There is more to “Guardians” than just the battle with Ronan and I won’t spoil this for you, it does tie into a much grander scheme of things than people who haven’t been keeping up with Marvel might not pick up on, but I am excited to see it all play out and how the Guardians themselves tie into it all.

I wasn’t blown away by “Guardians of the Galaxy” by any means, but I did find myself enjoying it more than I have some of Marvels more recent cinematic efforts and for that it deserves praise. Something new that is really quite good? I’ll take that over derivative tat any day.

It’s a shame that some have judged “Guardians” based off it’s inclusion of a raccoon. It’s different, so what? It upsets me how rigid some people can be about change, if “Guardians” does fail it will be a genuinely depressing turn of events. If you enjoy Marvel movies then you will almost certainly enjoy this one, have you judged it? If yes, then lighten up and go see it.

7/10

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